A Scientific Approach to Correction of Mistakes

As parents one of the major responsibilities we feel is to correct our children whenever they commit a mistake. We believe it’s best to correct immediately and that if we are able to correct our children they will model appropriate behaviour and be successful. Also we want to cushion them against other people’s harsh opinions. With this belief we continue on our parenting journey and soon find that our corrections are backfiring on us and weakening our connection with the child. Not knowing better we continue this losing battle. Science says this need not be our destiny. We can correct while making our bonds stronger.

Introspect before correction: Before nagging or trying to correct take a moment to introspect. Ask yourself what is it that I am trying to correct? What is the basis of my correction? Question your own knowledge about things and you will be amazed to find out how much of it is based on prejudices and beliefs rather than facts and current advancements in science including brain science. Ask what is the nature of mistake I am trying to correct. Will it persist or matter 5 years down the line? If not gently tell your views but don’t lose your peace over it. Don’t unnecessarily catastrophize that if not corrected they will end up in a mess. And that will be your fault and society will label you as a bad parent. If we can let go of our need to be extolled as good parent by the society we would actually be doing a much better job. Ask does the child has the skills required to correct the so called mistake? Should those skills be present in the child given the development age? If no then maybe you need to lower the bar of your expectation. If yes then help your child acquire those skills. Is it unlikely to be repeated? Then look the other way. In my opinion even factual error like pronunciation etc, shouldn’t be corrected immediately by interrupting the child. Is it compromising family values and rules? Yes then we need to address that behaviour but before that we have to be very clear as to the values and rules we are trying to establish. Do I need to correct every little thing which is not in accordance to my own idea of how things should be. Now that’s food for thought. Observe the expressions of the child when he makes the mistake and when you correct. If they look like they couldn’t care more or lie and are defiant when confronted it’s evident our approach isn’t working. Maybe we are correcting them way too often. In my opinion we should save our words for principles which really matter.

When to correct: Ideally not immediately unless physical safety is being compromised like little kids jumping from heights etc. You are not in a battlefield where if u don’t kill the opponent, opponent is going to dagger you. First create that atmosphere where learning can happen, where people can see your perspective. In battlefield there’s no perspective it’s kill or die. If both are charged with emotion then both would be speaking(internally if not externally) and no one would be really listening. We should be centered and be able to radiate kindness at the time we are telling our children of their pitfalls. At the time of conflict/disagreement don’t keep pushing to hammer your point. Wait for the storm of emotion to settle down to get the best results. The science behind this is that our emotional brain(limbic system) is connected to our logical part of the brain(neocortex or Prefrontal cortex) through a feedback loop. When limbic brain is hyperaroused, it puts the reasoning brain on hold. That is why stress is counterproductive to performance and joy and learning go together. Only when we are calm our prefrontal cortex has an upper hand and we can logically reason and comprehend the corrections adviced. Otherwise child only hears “I am good for nothing, nothing can make my parents happy, It’s all futile, they never understand my point of view so on and so forth”, resulting in re-repeat of mistakes and negative self image. Haven’t we all shouted at our kids “how many times do I have to repeat myself”, looks like it’s more our fault then theirs. We correct them when we shouldn’t and seldom bring the topic up when we should that is when both parent and child are calm and ready for discussion.

How to correct: We need to come from a place of curiosity and learning rather than “I am going to teach you”. It should be an equal ground and not “I am the parent, you gotta listen to me.” We have to choose our words wisely and consciously. If our kids feel valued they reflect that value onto us. Logic should rule the discussion rather than authority and preferences of parents. The child should have an equal voice in discussions and be heard patiently. We need to acknowledge their fears, their desires however trivial it may sound to us. And watch our tone lest it becomes accusatory. If any time during the discussion the volumes start rising pause immediately, you might say “I am getting upset, I don’t think I will be able to understand you or vice versa”. Revisit when emotional state’s more congenial. Comparisons and shaming are the weapons of change a parent wields but guess what they aren’t working on today’s generation. Surrender them. Sooner the better. We need new tools. Tools of love, respect, logic and higher consciousness.

Do not disconnect: I am talking about emotional and vibrational disconnect. Physical distance is sometimes good but feasibility depends upon age of the child and support of other family members. Whatever happens your child should be able to perceive your love and support. Children should be able to feel that we as parents haven’t given up on them. In my experience it has been a very tough task easier said than done but I have reaped the rewards abundantly whenever practiced. It’s different from intention because as parents our default intention behind each scolding/correction is betterment of our children. It’s about when we are scolding or offering suggestions what is our state of mind. It’s about consciously emanating love and understanding even at the time of offering suggestions. Saying what is needed, the way it is needed and simultaneously sending positive vibes to the child.

Correcting our children with love, logic and respect and not by fear, shame and comparisons is an arduous journey but worth all the effort.

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About Dr. Mona Choudhary

Dr Mona {Psychiatrist(M.B.B.S., MD) & Parenting Advice Expert} is a strong advocate of holistic health, meditates regularly and homeschools her 6 year old son. She uses her medical training and over a decade of experience in psychiatry to give practical advice on difficult parenting issues via individual consultation, workshops and this blog so that parents can raise their children in the best way.
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